Anti-Corruption Amendment W Gains Support

Yes on W Coalition Expands with Workers, Farmers

Vermillion, SD: The coalition supporting Amendment W, the South Dakota Anti-Corruption Amendment, announced its expanded coalition today that includes conservative groups, workers and farmers. Backers of Amendment W include the conservative South Dakota Constitution Party along with conservative group Take Back Our Republic, the South Dakota Farmers Union, South Dakota Democracy in Action, South Dakota AFL-CIO, South Dakota Democratic Party, Greening Vermillion, TakeItBack.org, Madison Area Stands Together, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), End Citizens United, and the nonpartisan anti-corruption group RepresentUs and its Represent South Dakota chapter.

“Amendment W creates strong, good government laws like a crackdown on lobbyist gift-giving to politicians,” said Duwayne Wohlleber, President of the South Dakota AFL-CIO. “These will all combine to ensure our government is representative of us voters rather than big money interests in Pierre.”

Amendment W ends gift-giving from paid lobbyists to lawmakers. When politicians tried to create their own gift limit, they unsurprisingly left gaping loopholes for things like food, alcohol, and entertainment. Amendment W closes these loopholes in an effort to ensure that the relationship between lobbyist and lawmaker remains informational only.

“Protecting our initiative and referendum process has always been at the forefront for the South Dakota Farmers Union,” said Doug Sombke, President. “This amendment removes the legislator’s ability to ‘declare an emergency’ and overturn the voters’ wishes.”

Under Amendment W, if voters pass an initiated measure in the future and lawmakers want to repeal it, they will have to send that decision back to the voters for the final say. That protection is also extended to the initiative process itself. In recent years, our initiative process has increasingly come under fire from lawmakers leading Wendy Underhill of the National Conference of State Legislatures to claim that “South Dakota was a standout” when it comes to bills designed to limit  the process.

Opponents of Amendment W are some of the state’s top lobbying groups and special interests. In a state where there are twice as many lobbyists as there are legislators, the special interest groups opposing Amendment W employ 54 different lobbyists and their members hold state contracts totalling tens of millions of dollars.

“Unlike Amendment W opponents, our backers are not bought and paid for by special interest lobbyists, but rather are simply voters who want to see an end to the constant stream of corruption and scandal that has cost our state millions of dollars,” said Mitch Richter, Republican co-chair of Yes on Amendment W and former legislator. “We welcome the support from South Dakotans across the political spectrum, farmers, workers and community leaders.”

Amendment W is a solution written by conservatives, progressives, and independents at forums held across the state. The measure is written to address the very real problem of unaccountability in South Dakota. Corruption has cost us tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. It is time to put an end to this unnecessary and unethical government waste.

“Special interests don’t want us to put an end to politics-as-usual because that has been their bread and butter for years,” said Darrell Solberg, Democratic co-chair and former legislator. “Amendment W sends a message to Pierre to knock it off with the waste, corruption, and backroom deals.”

South Dakota remains one of seven states without statewide, independent oversight. In 2017, legislators tried to create an accountability board, but exempted the legislative branch from its oversight and gave sole appointment authority to one person - the Governor. Amendment W extends from and corrects these shortcomings with an independent ethics watchdog that can field complaints, investigate corruption at all levels, and hold rulebreakers accountable. Amendment W would create an independent, nonpartisan ethics watchdog to investigate and enforce ethics laws subject to judicial review and reasonable oversight.

“The citizens’ ethics commission will provide a place for citizens to take complaints and perceived violations to be resolved,” wrote Democracy in Action leaders. “Best of all, ordinary citizens are eligible to serve on the commission and politicians and lobbyists are excluded.”

Over 180,000 South Dakotans voted in favor of Initiated Measure 22 and nearly 50,000 signed petitions to place Amendment W on the ballot. Hundreds of South Dakotans have demonstrated across the state, testitified in Pierre, and attended educational forums to develop the ideas in Amendment W.

 

1. North Dakota, New Mexico, Wyoming, Idaho, and Arizona have no ethics oversight. Michigan is the only state similar to South Dakota explicitly focused on a single branch of government. North Dakota and New Mexico both have constitutional amendments creating such oversight on their ballots this year.